The Kho (Khowar: کھو‎) are an Indo-Aryan ethnolinguistic group associated with the Dardistan region.[4] They speak Khowar, which is a member of the Dardic subgroup of the Indo-Aryan language family.[4] Many Kho people live in the Chitral District of Pakistan, while others live in Jammu and Kashmir, India,[1] as well as in the Badakhshan region of Afghanistan.[2]


The Kho people are likely descendents of those who arrived in the region during the Indo-Aryan migration.[5] The Kho people formerly observed a form of ancient Hinduism and Buddhism.[6] During the Mongol invasion of India in the 1200s, many of the northern Kho converted to Islam.[7]


Historically the Kho people reside in the Dardistan region. As such, they are a Dardic ethnic group located primarily in South Asia. Many of the Kho people live in the Chitral District of the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and a smaller number also live in Ghizer District of Gilgit Baltistan (including the Yasin Valley, Phandar Ishkoman and Gupis). In addition, a sizeable community of Kho people are found in Jammu and Kashmir, India.[1] They are also found in few numbers in northern Afghanistan, where the majority of them live in the northern provinces of Badakhshan.[2]


Y-DNA haplogroup R1a (M420) is found at a high frequency among the Kho people.[citation needed] Many are in haplogroup R1b (M343), also found in some Central Asian and South Asian people.


Kho culture is one of oldest cultures which places heavy emphasis on poetry, song and dance. Kho people also have a great respect of law and order. Much of this can be attributed to Chitral being a stable kingdom for most of its history,[8] where the rule of law and the will of the ruler came before tribal concepts such as revenge and isolationism.

Because of Chitral's location at the crossroads of Central Asia and South Asia, the Kho display a wide variety of cultures, largely depending upon their ancestral ethnic group and family history.


The Kho people speak the Khowar language, a member of the Dardic subgroup of the Indo-Aryan language family. The ethnologists Karl Jettmar and Lennart Edelberg noted, with respect to the Khowar language, that: "Khowar, in many respects [is] the most archaic of all modern Indian languages, retaining a great part of Sanskrit case inflexion, and retaining many words in a nearly Sanskritic form.”[9]

Khowar is spoken by about 247,000 Kho people in northern Pakistan,[10] and 19,200 Kho people in northern India.[1] Some of the Kho people use Urdu as a second language.[1]

Folk music

Folk singers and reed instrument players have a special respect in the Kho society and are featured in their festivities. The most common instruments are Surnai Shehnai, Sitar, and reed instruments. The Kho sitar is a popular musical instrument in Chitral. It is made out of mulberry wood with five steel strings arranged in three courses, the outer ones have double strings, tuned in unison, while the inner course is single. Popular music of the area includes:

  • Shishtoo-war (Sauz), a popular folk music played with shehnai on happy occasions, mostly at marriages.
  • Shab-daraaz (Dani) is a sad tone based on heartbroken love poems.
  • Ghalhwar is a combination of Dani and Sauz. This is a mixture of fast and classical music played at the starting of a polo match.

Notable people from Chitral

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Simons, Gary F.; Fennig, Charles D. (2017). Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Twentieth Edition. Dallas: SIL International. 
  2. ^ a b c "Kho". PeopleGroups.org. Retrieved 2016-08-11. 
  3. ^ "Khowar language, alphabet and pronunciation". Omniglot.com. 2012-01-25. Retrieved 2016-08-11. 
  4. ^ a b c d Olson, James Stuart (1998). An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of China. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 177. ISBN 9780313288531. 
  5. ^ O'Leary, Clare F.; Rensch, Calvin Ross; Decker, Sandra J. (1992). Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan: Languages of Chitral. National Institute of Pakistan Studies at Quaid-i-Azam University. p. 22. 
  6. ^ Cacopardo, Alberto M.; Cacopardo, Augusto S. (2001). Gates of Peristan: history, religion and society in the Hindu Kush. Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente. p. 48. 
  7. ^ Minahan, James B. (1 August 2016). Encyclopedia of Stateless Nations: Ethnic and National Groups around the World, 2nd Edition: Ethnic and National Groups around the World. ABC-CLIO. p. 220. ISBN 9781610699549. 
  8. ^ "chitral". Royalark.net. 1937-06-01. Retrieved 2013-04-15. 
  9. ^ Jettmar, Karl; Edelberg, Lennart (1974). Cultures of the Hindukush. F. Steiner Verlag. p. 3. ISBN 9783515012171. 
  10. ^ https://www.thenewstribe.com/2012/01/25/khowar-language/

External links